Oh to have travelled to so many places that you can make a song out of it. This is what the warbling wanderer has done in ‘I’ve been everywhere’.
The story of ‘I’ve been everywhere’
Written by Geoff Mack and performed by Lucky Starr in the 1920s, this Australian Country and Western track starts with our singing protagonist being picked up with his ‘bleuy’, the swag bag or bedroll, by a truck driver on the way to Oodnadatta in South Australia. The driver asks his hitch if he’d ever seen a road with so much dust and sand. Big mistake. ‘Listen mate,’ comes the response, ‘I’ve travelled every road in this here land.’
I’ve been to…
This leads our loquacious traveller to list all the places he’s been – 93 in total – with a noticeable absence of Australia’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. He’s clearly not been on every road. He’s a travelliar. Perhaps they were excluded for having insufficient rhyming prowess, unlike places such as Kumbarilla, ‘I’m a killer’ or Brindabella, ‘I’m the feller’.
It’s at this stage of the song that we get the impression our driver has picked up a boaster. He tries to interject by asking the hitchhiker, ‘have you been to…’ only to be interrupted again by another deluge of place names.
To put ourselves in the shoes of this traveller, it’s something of an achievement to have been to so many places. A feeling of joy coupled with exasperation arrives as a long trip comes to an end. His boasting is both celebration and relief at all that mileage put in and the experiences that went with it.
The driver is of a different opinion.
At the end of the hitchhiker’s speedy diatribe, there are sounds of the truck screeching to a halt. ‘Okay mate,’ says the driver, ‘you’ve been every place except one, and ya don’t need my help to get there.’ The cab door slams, the truck drives off, and our annoying versifier is left somewhere on the road to Oodnadatta.
Lucky Starr recorded different versions of the song to appeal to the different countries he was singing about: New Zealand, Britain and America. The latter country was rerecorded by Hank Snow and later by Johnny Cash. The truck driver in Cash’s version doesn’t interrupt, nor chuck him out. He wouldn’t dare. He shot a man when he was in Reno.
Moral of I’ve been everywhere
Be proud of your travel achievements, you deserve those bragging rights. Just be careful who you brag to. Unless you’re of a Cash-esque calibre.
For a song on when things go wrong on the road, have a listen to Tom Vek’s eponymously titled track.